A Publisher’s Guide for Preventing Clickbait Ads
Clickbait ad creative is engineered to intentionally drive clicks through psychological means via sensationalistic text or imagery.

How Clickbait Impacts User Engagement

Prompts Users To Spend Less Time On Site
Discourages Return Visits
Diminishes Trust In Our Brand
Significantly Affects Lifetime Of Audiences
Clickbait Trends in 2022 & 2023
Clickbait has long been a familiar phenomenon to nearly everyone who engages with digital media. Having recognized the power of clickbait, cybercriminals, fraudsters and wider advertising entities now aim to shock, scare, and emotionally manipulate online users through sensationalistic ad creative. Fake celebrity endorsements, outrageous claims about medical and financial products, sexually suggestive images, misleading messages– all are current staples of clickbait.

Prevent crypto health finance ad scams

56% of publishers have identifed clickbait on their sites.
Manufacturing Emotion: Social Engineering
Clickbait employs a number of effective cognitive tricks to get clicks. Emotional manipulation gives actors the upper hand in an any online interaction. Clickbait taps into the most impulsive emotions including: Fear, excitement, curiosity, anger, guilt and sadness.

Recognizing Clickbait in All Its Forms

Here are some common content categories of clickbait ads publishers need to monitor or block:

Brand infringement Ads

Ads for fraudulent, low-quality, Non-genuine products, or non-existent products and services. This may include counterfeit products,campaigns impersonating brands or businesses by referencing or modifying the brand content in the ads, URL, destinations or misrepresenting themselves as the brand or business. Clickbait ads and landing pages such as these typically promise premium products at unusually low prices.

Misleading product offers

Ads and landing pages offering products that don’t exist in the market (e.g., miracle cures), Non-genuine products ie; imitation, clone, faux, fake. Clickbait creative in this category may prey on users’ hopes and fears, offering easy solutions for complex problems, or products or services in scant supply.

Financial scams

Trending news around cryptocurrency and government support programs have given rise to a wave of fraudulent campaigns designed to lure users into sending money or sharing personal information. These campaigns take advantage of the audience’s attention to those news trends.

67% of publishers say they’ve seen a significant or great number of deceptive ads including clickbait

Social Engineering

Social engineering is a manipulation technique that exploits human emotion. In cybercrime, “human hacking” lures unsuspecting online users into various online advertising frauds. Social engineering uses psychological manipulation to trick users into willingly navigating to unverified pages, fraudulent schemes and malicious scams.


Emotionally-charged creative has proven to be an effective low-tech way of luring users to listings of fraudulent or non-existent products, financial schemes, phishing scams, propaganda, and other low-quality landing pages. And it frequently looks just innocuous enough to evade creative scanners and publishers’ in-house quality controls. 

A particularly potent clickbait campaign

can look from a distance like simply a high-performing campaign, opening the door for it to spread more widely through the ad ecosystem.

What Message Is Appropriate?

In the era of clickbait, the appropriateness of ads is not measured in black and white – they occupy a grey zone. Determining which ads are brand-suitable and audience-appropriate and which are not requires strong ad content detection methods. The grey zone doesn’t have to be a blind spot. With constant monitoring of ad creative and ad landing pages, publishers can gain insights to draw firmer boundaries between appropriate and unwanted content. All ads engineered to manipulate the user’s emotions and psychology – ads intended to harm, and those that are not – meet GeoEdge’s strict criteria for clickbait. GeoEdge works with publishers to classify ad creative and page or app content as specifically as possible, to ensure ads are aligned with content in a consistent, relevant, and brand-suitable way.

Clickbait Is an Obstacle to Brand Suitability

Brand suitability is a hot topic in digital media today, but unlike some other hot topics the industry has seen, this one can’t be addressed by setting industry-wide standards. Brand suitability is subjective, and it depends on the publisher’s content focus and mission, their own audience’s expectations and values, and the goals of the advertisers they want to attract and retain. Publishers have different standards based on their business goals and most meaningful KPIs – including enhancing user trust, which 80% of publishers say can be accomplished through a brand-suitable experience.

100% of publishers said brand suitability means hosting ads that are relevant to the audience and site or app content.

Take Action Against Clickbait Ads Now

Publishers should consider these best practices to monitor and eliminate clickbait:

Publishers should document their values, goals, and criteria for relevant advertising and brand suitability. This documentation will allow them to efficiently identify unwelcome ads.

Ad content should be vigilantly monitored and evaluated in real time to ensure that no violations occur.

Publishers must ensure that ad creative accurately represents landing pages, and that page content aligns with their message and brand.

A publisher’s own team is best equipped to evaluate the subtleties of clickbait and other unwelcome ads.

How publishers view their current ad quality tools

My ad quality tools have the necessary amount of control and transparency

I need more control and transparency from my ad quality tools

Don’t know

Remember that only 9% of users report inappropriate ads directly to publishers through customer service or social media. The real damage to a publisher’s reputation and KPIs comes from bounce and churn from users who see no need to complain. Publishers simply lack insight into how many users have fallen prey to clickbait ads. That’s why it’s imperative to take preventive measures to recognize and stop clickbait before it ever reaches the page.

Clickbait has the potential to diminish your presence as a publisher and ruin your reputation.
Unwanted content and sensationalized text may lead your audience to visit your site less often or abandon the site entirely, opting for a competitor. 


Prevent Clickbait deceptive misleading ad scams